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December 4, 2013 at 1:04 PM

State college debt lower than national average, but climbing

Graduates from Washington’s public and private four-year colleges have less debt than their counterparts nationwide, according to a new report on student debt in America.

But in Washington, the average debt load has gone up nearly 22 percent in five years.

When compared to other states, Washington ranks 36th for college debt levels among students who attend four-year schools, according to the report by The Project on Student Debt. The state where students have the highest debt load is Delaware, where the average debt is $33,649; the lowest is New Mexico, where the average debt is $17,994.

The average debt for students who graduated from a Washington public- or private nonprofit four-year school in 2013 is $23,293. Five years ago, students who graduated in 2008 carried a debt load of $19,112, according to CollegeInsight, a website that displays debt figures over a range of years.

Nationally, college graduates who borrowed to earn their bachelor’s degree had an average student-loan debt of $29,000, according to the Project on Student Debt, part of The Institute for College Access and Success. About 71 percent of college seniors who graduated last year had student-loan debt.

The report also warns that one-fifth of the debt held nationally is in the form of private loans, “which are typically more costly and provide fewer consumer protections and repayment options than safer federal loans.”

“From 2008 to 2012, average debt (federal and private loans combined) increased an average of six percent each year,” the student-debt project reported.

The report also breaks down the numbers by college. On average, 2012 undergraduates from the University of Washington’s Seattle campus owed about $20,800, and 49 percent of graduates had debt. That’s up from $16,800 in 2008 – not surprising, since tuition has nearly doubled in that time period. About 50 percent of graduates had debt in 2008.

In 2012, the average Washington State University undergraduate owed $23,443, and 57 percent of graduates had debt. The WSU debt load was the highest among Washington’s public four-year schools. Numbers for earlier years were not available.

Students who graduated from Washington’s private schools owed significantly more. The four-year private, nonprofit school with the highest average debt load was Saint Martin’s University, in Olympia. Graduates there had a debt load of $34,235, and 79 percent of graduates had some debt.

Northwest University, a small private school in Kirkland, also had a high debt load. The average debt of graduates was $31,691, and 83 percent of graduates had some debt.

Third on the list was Pacific Lutheran University, where the average debt of graduates was $31,320, and 73 percent of graduates had some debt.

Comments | More in Education, General news | Topics: University of Washington, Washington State University

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